The entrepreneurial haven

May 07, 2011


The American dream. That’s what most Pakistanis are brought up to hook into. Leave your country for America at the first available opportunity — the land of dreams where sheer hard work pays off rich dividends no matter which city you’re in. But here in Pakistan, even the economic bedrock of the country that is Karachi does not offer you any opportunity to make it big.

Or so the perception goes.

But is it the reality? Does the rampant corruption and prevailing law and order situation of Karachi make it hopeless for someone with the entrepreneurial spirit striving to make it big here?

According to the Doing Business Report issued by the World Bank annually, Pakistan has been an easier place to do business than Brazil, Russia, India and China, commonly referred to as the ‘BRICs’ — the biggest emerging markets of the world.

Moreover, Pakistan has been ranked higher than any other South Asian nation in the 2010 report. The report measures such parameters as the amount of time taken to register a business, number of procedures, official signatures, cost involved, etc.

Although within Pakistan Karachi ranks a lowly ninth on the ease factor (Faisalabad being the number one), if you go by the evidence on the ground you will find a land brimming with opportunities — a city overflowing with rags-to-riches stories in all spheres of life. The only problem is that these success stories have not been documented enough to provide the inspiration to the masses.

Sure, there are numerous obstacles like red-tapism in government offices, corrupt officials and of course the bhattha-walas belonging to various political parties. But this hasn’t stopped industrious entrepreneurs from making it big. And no, we’re not talking about the Adamjees, the Dawoods or the Dewans, but ordinary Joes like the rest of us.

Here are some examples of this spirit: an ordinary man starts selling biryani on a thela in Saddar and today that has become a renowned brand with franchises all over the country; a retailer opens a small grocery story in Bahadurabad and a decade later it has sprawled into a large departmental store at one of the central locations in the city; a group of friends start a website catering to Karachi and the brand becomes a superstar overnight. It then expands into a TV and radio channel and continues to grow unabated; a business graduate from a top business school of the city starts his career in banking, becomes disillusioned with it enough to give up a lucrative job and start from scratch in the fashion designing business. Today he’s a successful fashion maestro with his business expanded to Dubai and Canada.

And these are just those who have made it already. There are innumerable others undeterred by the gloomy air who are striving to carve out a niche for themselves on their own instead of going for the conventional option of a job.

And they’re increasingly coming up with innovative ways to market themselves and their product or service. You just need to browse Facebook and other social networking sites to see how they’re intelligently embedding their products and themselves in the lives of their target market.

Or skim through a home advertising magazine that started from DHA and Clifton and is now circulated in all major areas, which showcases these budding businesses. In fact this magazine itself is the brainchild of a Lahore-based entrepreneur who left his job in the advertising world with the lofty goal of creating a billion-dollar company.

Stories of success abound in this eccentric city of 18 million oozing with inspiration, and yet despair continues to prevail, fuelling even more brain drain.

So what’s needed? Propagation of these success stories on a mass level. Yes, print media works but a magazine or even a newspaper geared towards entrepreneurship would have too limited a reach to either initiate or even galvanise a revolution.What’s needed is a TV channel aptly called Entrepreneur TV (or it could be named Success TV, Wealth TV, whichever name is commercially more viable).

The channel would not only interview these successful personalities but would also take an in-depth look at how the operations of the business are carried out.

The city has all the elements of entrepreneurship embedded within its inhabitants.

All it needs is the activation of this spirit which is only possible by highlighting the achievements of those spirited individuals who have already made it and those that are in transition.—Saqib Khan